AR-News: (MD - US) Zoo can keep elephants, for now
Snugglezzz at aol.com
Snugglezzz at aol.com
Sun Nov 23 13:19:15 EST 2003
With new attention and funds, zoo can keep elephants, for now
Long-term solutions still needed, officials say
By June Arney
Originally published November 21, 2003
Dolly and Anna, the Baltimore Zoo elephants, won't have to leave home - at
least for a while.
A hastily organized rescue operation has produced pledges of $500,000 from
area business leaders and a promise of financial support from Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr. to help save the zoo from financial disaster.
Zoo officials said two weeks ago that Dolly and Anna would be shipped out on
a breeding loan in a move aimed at slashing costs and keeping the zoo gates
open. The layoffs of 20 zoo workers and permanent departure of about 400 other
animals also were announced.
They said the zoo faced a $750,000 operating deficit in the first quarter of
next year and potential insolvency if a shortfall - caused in part by a
$700,000 cut in state aid - was not corrected.
"The Baltimore Zoo is one of Maryland's great treasures," Ehrlich said in a
statement released late yesterday. "Both the public and private sectors are
committed to raising the funding needed to get the zoo on solid financial
Elizabeth "Billie" Grieb, president of the zoo, said the aid pledges
represented an important first step toward returning the zoo to financial
health and keeping the elephants in Maryland.
"I'm feeling a lot better than I have in the last couple weeks," she said.
"I was hopeful that we'd get a strong response across the entire community,
but you never know until it happens."
The public-private rescue package was put together Tuesday night at a
meeting attended by Ehrlich, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and about
two dozen high-powered area business leaders at Dalesio's of Little Italy in
Ehrlich is committed to fixing the immediate financial shortfall as well as
the long-term health of the zoo, according to a statement released yesterday
by zoo supporters who said it had been approved by the governor's office.
"I don't want to mislead people into thinking we can keep the elephants
unless we keep the zoo," Grieb said. "We still have a long-term funding
problem that we need to solve. But it does give me a lot more confidence
that we will solve the longer-term problem, because not only the public but
the business community and, most importantly, the governor, have indicated
that they care about the zoo."
"It sounds like something good is going to happen," Dennis M. Castleman,
assistant secretary for tourism, film and the arts in the Department of
Business and Economic Development, said yesterday. "Anything that the
governor does to help the Baltimore Zoo will certainly be good for tourism
and the economic engine that it is."
In the weeks since the zoo's Nov. 4 announcement of cutbacks - including
putting Anna and Dolly out on "breeding loan" - donations of about $200,000
have poured in.
"The real message we want to give is we're very appreciative of all the
support we're getting," Grieb said yesterday. "It makes me feel hopeful that
we will solve the larger problem."
Zoo officials have said that if they didn't make the budget cuts, the zoo -
the country's third-oldest - would go out of business in the first quarter
of next year.
It would require an extra $1.2 million to $1.5 million annually for the zoo
to keep all of the animals, make repairs, meet cash flow and avoid shrinking
the operation, zoo officials have said.
The planned reduction in the zoo's animal collection includes sending some
cranes, flamingos, ducks, reptiles and amphibians to other zoos.
The relocation of those animals is likely to proceed anyway, Grieb said
yesterday, because zoo officials want the collection to be more focused in
The animals that have been identified to go to other zoos do not fit into
Baltimore's focus on wilderness and environmental hot spots.
The plight of the zoo and its animals has drawn a passionate response from
schoolchildren wanting to sell T-shirts and from citizens writing letters to
the editor and sending electronic messages suggesting such things as a
nickel donation from the Orioles for every bag of peanuts sold in the coming
Super Fresh has enabled shoppers to make a gift to the zoo at the cash
"It's an attraction we can't lose," said Paul Oliver, owner of Dalesio's of
Little Italy and a member of the Maryland Tourism Development Board. "Maybe
as we sell the city, it's not on the radar, and it should be."
Oliver said he would like to see the zoo incorporated into packaged tour
plans that include multiple Baltimore attractions and to see the zoo
packaged with the National Aquarium. He suggested offering transportation to
make it easier for visitors to get from the Inner Harbor to the zoo grounds.
"I think there are 100,000 more people who could go to the zoo than go now,"
Meanwhile, the zoo's workers, who unionized last winter as part of the
United Steelworkers of America, have filed complaints with the National
Labor Relations Board alleging that the zoo laid off workers without
notifying or bargaining with the unit.
Several factors in recent years have contributed to the zoo's financial and
labor pressures, zoo officials have said. The September 2001 terrorist
attacks, the October 2002 sniper attacks, a harsh winter and wet summer all
have slowed the stream of visitors. The state cut its contribution to the
zoo by $620,000 in 2001 and by an additional $80,000 last year.
News of the layoffs and other problems at the zoo came just a month after
the zoo opened its $7 million Polar Bear Watch exhibit, which includes a
tundra buggy from which visitors can view the bears. Some of the zoo's money
is earmarked solely for capital projects and cannot be used to help with its
Founded in 1867, the Baltimore Zoo is internationally known for its
contributions to conservation and research.
It will take a private and public partnership to solve the zoo's financial
woes, said David H. Nevins, president of Nevins & Associates, a regional
marketing and public relations firm that has done marketing for the zoo in
"Maybe the private sector needs to step up to the plate in a bigger way,"
said Nevins. "and maybe the government sector needs to also."
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the AR-News